End of year is Exam time!

Hello and welcome to another update of the Victorian Goldfield’s Railway Mechanical blog where we take a look at goings on in and around the workshops at Maldon. As we mentioned last time out Steam is off the menu for the time being due to fire restrictions so while freshly re-painted Y133 is out and about running services J549 has it’s annual boiler exam in February.

This year we celebrate 5 years of the J’s return to service after her full restoration and so this time the boiler inspection coincides with a scheduled ABC exam. A what you ask? So did your blogger and after a little research I came across a great old article in The Victorian Railway’s “Behind the Railway Scene” magazine that goes some way to explaining it.

Back in the day the VR used a strict schedule of exams in order to keep their steamers in good working order. An A examination was performed every 1500 miles with inspection of wheels, tyres, axles, engine frames, oiling of flange lubricators and intermediate buffers and Turbo Generators voltage and lamps.

Every 3000 miles and AB exam was done which as it’s name suggests was an A plus a comprehensive examination of the loco and a boiler examination by a boilermaker as well.

Every 12000 miles comes the ABC exam (seeing a pattern here?) and is far more comprehensive and takes around 4 days. Or in our case a couple of weeks or so as we don’t have a limitless supply of fitters on hand to do the job not to mention that our facilities hardly rival Newport Workshops in it’s heyday!

We will go into a bit more detail about what exams the VGR does and when in a later post but for now it is time for J549 to undergo an ABC and so away we go.

First cab off the rank was separating Loco and Tender, giving both a thorough clean and preparing for the boiler inspection. The C exam boiler inspection is more involved than the annual one and requires removal of more components for a more detailed inspection including EVERY valve in the loco, oil, air, steam and water.

In the photos below we see volunteer Keith trying not to get blown backwards from the 3000 psi water blast as he pressure washes the Tender while Pete argues with an injector which is stubbornly resisting removal.



The boiler inspection was completed early in the piece by our contractor and the J was given the tick of approval with just a couple of washout plugs requiring replacement. There was some concern expressed though about excessive use of the Safety Valve, which has been overheated & shown minor steam cutting from prolonged use. In the photo below we see the Safety Valve showing the deep blue of overheating…….



……. while in the shot above we see the Boiler stripped of fittings. Astute viewers will see both M3 valves missing from the brake pedistal.

The mechanical lubricator had to be completely stripped and had more gunk than expected, Mick had to use the pressure washer to get all the goop out of the main body. It required some new gaskets to be made from the thinnest paper available, to avoid altering its settings and then was re-assembled. Below we see it in a gazillion bits all over Mick’s bench.


During the work so far the team have done a boiler washout, serviced all boiler fittings, boiler inspection, lubrication system, removed, stripped & cleaned Injectors, found some internal issues to be sorted, checked all motion gear tolerances and are halfway through all brake components – 1 brake compensator needs repair from a failed bush. New material has also been prepped for Table Plate repairs in smoke box. Not a bad effort for a few weeks work, much of it in extreme heat. Below we see Mick removing safety valves in 40 degree heat; he actually burnt his knees on the nearly 70 degree black boiler cladding!


Well that’s just about it for this post. As I type I have been told that today Mick started jacking & removing suspension components so he can get to the wool pads under the axles. “It’s such a joy lifting 60 ton with mechanical screw jacks” he exclaimed. “NOT!”.

We leave you with a little distraction that happened during a recent work day – a branch fell from a tree near the yard and landed on one of the flood lights damaging it a little. Not the sort of sound you want to hear when you have a very valuable Steam Loco in a million bits around the workshop! Until next time, enjoy the summer and maybe even a trip on our railway. You can find booking details on the website at vgr.com.au


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